A Bridge

Underground Warfare

I’m not sure whether this picture conveys quite how packed the Delhi metro can get. I had to take it sneakily as I don’t think pictures are allowed down there. In a word, though, ‘sardines’. However, it’s not so much the people-per-square-foot ratio that is annoying (it’s merely very, very uncomfortable), its the manners that people assume when they enter the metro system. I think I’ve spoken about this before so I’ll give an account of something that happened last week.

Most log-jams happen in Rajiv Chowk station, underneath Connaught Place and in the heart of the city’s business district and tourist centre. Trains here exchange herds of people getting on and off, and the former rarely let the latter exit the carriage before attempting to get on themselves.

As much as these people would like it, I’m sure, that is not how physics works. In leaving the carriage, a boy and his father had their hands separated by the two crowds rushing into each other – the dad managed to get off, but the child, age around nine, was pinned back and beginning to get crushed in the melee. I attempted to make space for the child in the same way you do in a moshpit when someone falls over, elbows and arms widening people out the way.

The child caught up with his father and got off, so I tried shouldering my way out too, but something caught my backpack and lurched me back in. I felt the shoulderstrap tear as I tried tugging it back, one foot on the train and one on the platform. When this didnt work, I decided following the bag in to avoid losing it entirely, before having to effectively, punch my way out again, shoving people in the chest and hitting them in the shoulders as they continued, unperturbed by crushed child and struggling stranger, to pour in.

Finally having barged my way out, someone who I had quite literally mauled off the train turned around and asked “were you hitting me?” To which I replied “yes, yes I did. Let people off first and learn some manners”. He was stumped, but I’ve seen this happen time and again, most recently with a mother and her pram who, taking a little too long to manuevre the trolley out of the carriage, got caught in the tide and had to be helped by three men who pretty much did the same as I did to let her off. It’s a jungle in there.

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